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Nelspruit - A 17-year-old school pupil has died after being struck by lightning while running for cover during a thunderstorm in Mpumalanga.

Grade 11 pupil Francois Clarence, who was a first team hockey player at Hoër Tegniese Skool (HTS) Witbank, was reportedly playing against a team from Potchefstroom when the storm struck without warning on Tuesday afternoon, a Sapa correspondent reported.

“The teachers told the players to run to the school cafeteria, which was 200 metres away. While he was running across the rugby field, Francois was struck by lightning,” said Emalahleni police spokesman Captain Eddie Hall.

“From the reports it looks like he was hit directly by the lightning, as his clothes were burnt. The lightning didn't strike the ground first.”

He said paramedics were immediately called to the scene and tried to resuscitate Clarence, whose heart had stopped beating.

They got a faint pulse and he was rushed to intensive care at Life Cosmos Hospital.

Family, fellow pupils, and community members held a prayer session at the hospital but he died late on Tuesday night.

An inquest docket had been opened into his death, which Hall described as a “tragic accident”.

“From what we have heard it sounds like the teachers acted responsibly, this was just a tragic accident,” he explained.

A post-mortem was expected to take place on Friday.

The Clarence family were too distraught to comment, while the school could not be reached on Wednesday.

But friends of Clarence used the school's Facebook page to share their grief.

“It's surely the most painful thing in the whole world. My heart goes out to the parents, family and friends. Only prayers can help with the comfort, may God send his angels to hold you close in this time,” one user commented.